|Single by R.E.M.|
|from the album Automatic for the People|
|B-side||"Losing My Religion" (Live)|
|Released||July 15, 1993 (UK)|
|Format||CD single, 7" single, 12" single|
|Producer||Scott Litt & R.E.M.|
|R.E.M. singles chronology|
"Nightswimming" is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released in 1993 as the fifth single from the group's eighth album Automatic for the People (1992). "Nightswimming" is a ballad featuring singer Michael Stipe accompanied only by bassist Mike Mills on piano, a string arrangement by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and a prominent oboe by Deborah Workman in the latter part of the piece. Stipe sings about a group of friends who go skinny dipping at night, which draws from similar experiences in the band's early days.
Background and recording
Bassist Mike Mills recalled he was playing a piano riff at John Keane's studio in the band's hometown of Athens, Georgia. While Mills almost discarded the melody, it attracted the interest of singer Michael Stipe. Mills said, "I never thought it would amount to much because it was just a circular thing that kept going round and round and round. But it inspired Michael." While the song was not included on Out of Time, the demo recorded during those sessions was used for Automatic for the People, with a string arrangement by John Paul Jones added to the track. Mills has also claimed he recorded the piano part at Criteria Studios in Miami, on the same piano used by Derek and the Dominos on the recording of "Layla".
Composition and lyrics
"Nightswimming" was performed solely by Michael Stipe and Mike Mills; Stipe sings while Mills plays the piano. R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted that the absence of drummer Bill Berry and himself from the song was typical of many tracks on Automatic for the People, where one or more bandmembers would not appear on a given song. Mills plays a piano motif he has referred to as "circular" in nature.
The inspiration for the song has been debated by the band members. "It's based on true events", Mills said, explaining that in the early 1980s R.E.M. and its circle of friends would go skinny dipping after the Athens clubs closed at night. "We'd go to parties, we'd go to the clubs and we'd go to the Ball Pump, and there would be any number of these same 50 people, so it was a very tight circle of friends." Peter Buck holds a similar interpretation. However, Stipe has denied that that is the topic of the song; rather, Stipe says the song is about a "kind of an innocence that's either kind of desperately clung onto or obviously lost." Stipe said there are autobiographical elements to the song, but insists most of it is "made up."
- "Nightswimming" – 4:16
- "Losing My Religion" (acoustic live) – 4:55
12" and CD Maxi-Single
- "Nightswimming" – 4:16
- "World Leader Pretend" (acoustic live) – 5:16
- "Belong" (acoustic live) – 4:40
- "Low" (acoustic live) – 4:59
(All four acoustic live b-sides recorded live in Charleston, April 28th 1991 for the Mountain Stage radio program. "Belong" and "Low" both taken from the album Out of Time)
- Black, Johnny. Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. Backbeat Books, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-776-5
- Buckley, David. R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin, 2002. ISBN 1-85227-927-3
- Platt, John (editor). The R.E.M. Companion: Two Decades of Commentary. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864935-4
- Buckley, p. 226
- Fricke, David. "Living Up to Out of Time/Remote Control: Parts I and II". Melody Maker. October 3, 1992.
- Black, p. 192
- Cavanagh, David. "Tune in, cheer up, rock out". Q. October 1994.
- Black, p. 193
- Buckley, p. 358
- Dashboard Confessional : A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar (2004 Bonus DVD) - Listen, Review and Buy at ARTISTdirect
- allmusic ((( Where Are They Now? [#1] > Overview )))